The New York Times revealed that the armed extremist groups and criminal networks are involved in abduction of journalists in Syria.
In an article published Friday, the newspaper said "Abductions of journalists inside Syria have increased sharply this year as the ravages of the conflict have worsened and the insurgency has turned more jihadist and chaotic. "
"Some appear to have been carried out by armed insurgent extremist groups and criminal networks seeking ransom in cash, weapons or both," it pointed out.
According to the article, foreign journalists are particular targets, "mostly Europeans who have ventured into Syria, usually without the permission of the Syrian government." Syrian journalists have also been targeted, it said.
The New York Times also noted that "Some translators, drivers and local guides have reported that criminal groups or jihadists have tried to recruit them to lure journalists into Syria with promises of scoops."
It quoted Donatella Rovera, a senior investigator for Amnesty International who has spent long periods traveling in Syria to document rights abuses in the conflict as saying that "There is no denying that the fragmentation of armed groups, and the increased visibility of radical groups, have coincided with an increase in abductions." "It’s fair to assume there is a relationship there," she added.
The article noted that the Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, has reported at least 14 cases of local and international journalists who are missing or have been abducted this year.
For his part, Sherif Mansour, the Middle East and North Africa program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said "We see more journalists not abducted by the government, but by independent militias who are going after money, and this is worrying".
The New York Times referred in the article to Jonathan Alpeyrie, a French-American photojournalist for the Polaris agency who was abducted by radical Islamist fighters near Damascus on April 29 and released nearly three months later, noting that a $450,000 ransom had been paid on the journalist's behalf.
It also referred to James Foley, who had worked for GlobalPost, a Boston-based news Web site, who disappeared on Thanksgiving Day in Idlib. GlobalPost later announced in a news article that Foley had been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen.
The newspaper quoted Peter N. Bouckaert, the emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, as saying that the abductions have increased as the insurgency’s reliance on jihadist groups, like the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has grown. "They try to kidnap wealthy Syrians and some journalists for ransom," Bouckaert said in an interview in June with Syria Deeply, an independent blog.